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Some isotopes are radioactive; that is, they are unstable because their nuclei are too large.To achieve stability, the atom must make adjustments, particularly in its nucleus.Both are complete atoms in every sense of the word.Geologists regularly use five parent isotopes to date rocks: uranium-238, uranium-235, potassium-40, rubidium-87, and samarium-147.
The parent isotopes that decay are called radioisotopes.
PART 1: Back to Basics PART 2: Problems with the Assumptions PART 3: Making Sense of the Patterns This three-part series will help you properly understand radiometric dating, the assumptions that lead to inaccurate dates, and the clues about what really happened in the past.
Most people think that radioactive dating has proven the earth is billions of years old.
So, for example, every carbon atom contains six protons and six electrons, but the number of neutrons in each nucleus can be six, seven, or even eight.
Therefore, carbon has three isotopes (variations), which are specified carbon-12, carbon-13, and carbon-14 (Figure 1).